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Monroe councilman criticized for comments about masks

Several Monroe residents sent City Council email letters critical of comments made July 14 by Councilman Tom Callahan which they felt were racist and inappropriate. Three of those email letters were read into the record by the council clerk.  Callahan opposed a proposed mandatory mask requirement in public saying, “I disagree with telling people to wear masks. ... “The next thing you do, you’ll be telling people to wear scarves around their head.” He also posted an Islamaphobic meme on his personal social media page. Other residents have started an online petition calling for Callahan's resignation. The proposed mask ordinance failed by a 4-2 vote. FILE PHOTO
Several Monroe residents sent City Council email letters critical of comments made July 14 by Councilman Tom Callahan which they felt were racist and inappropriate. Three of those email letters were read into the record by the council clerk. Callahan opposed a proposed mandatory mask requirement in public saying, “I disagree with telling people to wear masks. ... “The next thing you do, you’ll be telling people to wear scarves around their head.” He also posted an Islamaphobic meme on his personal social media page. Other residents have started an online petition calling for Callahan's resignation. The proposed mask ordinance failed by a 4-2 vote. FILE PHOTO

After making a comment that many found offensive at the July 14 Monroe City Council meeting, first-year Councilman Tom Callahan became the focus of a number of emails critical of him and an online petition demanding his resignation.

During the discussion about enacting a mask ordinance that would have imposed civil penalties of $125 on businesses that did not enforce the wearing of face masks, Callahan said he opposed such a measure. Council voted the measure down by a 4-2 vote.

Callahan also posted a meme on social media which some found offensive. As of Thursday morning, about 700 signed the online petition demanding Callahan resign.

Callahan said his comments were “totally taken out of context.”

“I didn’t mean any harm,” he said. “I was trying to make a point that people don’t need government to tell them what to do.”

Callahan said that everybody has their own opinion on issues but his comparison was misunderstood.

“That’s just sad asking for someone to resign when he was just trying to make a point,” he said.

Monroe Councilman Tom Callahan has been criticized for comments he made at the July 14 council meeting during a spirited discussion on an ordinance requiring people to wear masks. While most of the emails opposed his comments, he also received a number of comments praising him for speaking his opinion. FILE PHOTO
Monroe Councilman Tom Callahan has been criticized for comments he made at the July 14 council meeting during a spirited discussion on an ordinance requiring people to wear masks. While most of the emails opposed his comments, he also received a number of comments praising him for speaking his opinion. FILE PHOTO

He said government should not create mandates and people who feel threatened should decide for themselves if they wish to wear a mask in public. Callahan also said he has yet to wear a mask in public and has never felt threatened to do so.

ExploreMonroe rejects proposal to require masks in the city

“I disagree with telling people to wear masks,” Callahan said. “The next thing you do, you’ll be telling people to wear scarves around their head.”

More than two dozen emails, the majority being offended by Callahan’s comments, were sent to Monroe Council Clerk Angela Wasson, with three people requesting that their letters be read into the record during the meeting.

Resident Roger Enchelmeyer wrote, “... Mr. Callahan’s statement, ‘he has yet to wear a mask and has never felt threaten to do so’ is concerning. It is my understanding that the wearing of a mask does not protect the wearer so much as it protects those who may come in contact with the wearer who knowingly or unknowingly is carrying the virus. I hope all those who come in contact with Mr. Callahan wear masks so he does not become the spreader of the virus.

“I thought the whole point of Council was to lead. Instead, it seems you are advocating to leave leadership up to individuals and businesses. Why is there even a need to have a Council if personal choice rules.”

ExploreMonroe council considering mask mandate, civil penalties

Former Councilwoman Lora Stillman wrote she was expressing her “deepest disappointment and concern” with Callahan’s comment.

“Mr. Tom Callahan, whether intended, this sounds like a disrespectful way of saying that you do not like people from cultures and religions who wear head scarves. You were entirely inappropriate to make this statement while conducting business as a City Council Member. I believe in freedom of speech. However, as a Council Member of our City, you have the responsibility of representing this City,” Stillman said. “You are expected to represent them all, not denigrate any segment of the population. What you say in private is your business. However, what you say as an elected City Council Member who represents the City, its residents, and its businesses must be appropriate and respectful.”

Resident Justin Binik-Thomas sent an email saying, “Thank you Council members for hearing the wishes of our family and our community and defeating the order. We are comforted that the council a whole supported our liberty and our businesses.

Binik-Thomas wrote an email two weeks ago against the proposed ordinance.

“Our family unit left an oppressive town that managed their business through emergency resolutions without debate. fear our chosen hometown will now follow suit,” he wrote. “There is currently an order from Columbus that accomplishes the stated goal. Often in government, like in business, the correct answer is to do nothing.”